Industry Speed Round with Kevin Shaw

Avanti Systems, a Ricoh Company, provides MIS software and services to many of the best-known commercial, in-plant, large/grand format and marketing service providers in North America. Hear what Kevin Shaw, Avanti’s Deputy General Manager, has to say about their offerings and his advice on what printers and service providers need to be successful in the Ricoh Industry Speed round!


Q: Tell us about your solutions and what they offer Print Service Providers (PSPs).

A: Management Information Systems (MIS) are really the heartbeat of your business. Think of it as a mission control for all of your business operations.

Avanti Slingshot Print MIS offers built-in intelligence, presenting real-time information when and where it’s needed. It can be accessed anywhere, at anytime, from any internet-enabled device, giving you the flexibility to get the answers you need, even when you’re ‘on the go’.

The platform is scalable and supports companies of all sizes, including multi-company, multi-division, multi-plant and franchise operations.


Q: What is the biggest challenge your clients are trying to solve?

A: Visibility on their end-to-end workflow.  Our MIS gives insight which helps PSPs make key decisions to improve their business – like cost control, profit and efficiency.


Q: Walk us through an Avanti Workflow Evaluation process and what customers gain from this exercise. Is there a cost to do this?

A: When a print shop contacts Avanti about doing a workflow evaluation, we start by asking, “What do you want to accomplish?” A shop may notice and want to eliminate silos of automation, places where information is not flowing seamlessly from one step to the next. Other businesses have very specific problems they want to tackle, like better managing inventory to reduce waste.

The Evaluation gives a PSPs FREE access to one of our Workflow Experts to review their current state.  Avanti will prepare a customized demo using the PSPs job samples, deliver Workflow Automation recommendations on the current shop environments, including: orders/jobs, planning, materials, production distribution and accounting.


Q: Of all the MIS/ERP systems available in the marketplace, what is the Avanti Slingshot Print MIS differentiation from your competition?

A: Avanti is an open cloud platform.  We have partnered with other best-of-breed software solutions to give flexibility and breadth to the market.  Some key partners are Enfocus, XMPie, BCC Software, VPress and Avalara. Our MIS doesn’t need to replace tools and systems you have already invested in, rather we can automate the workflows that existing software is already functioning in.


Q: What do you say to customers who attempt to build a homegrown system?

A: Why?!? Today’s technology allows for a customized solution at a fraction of the cost and time to develop – not to mention all the testing and bugs. Homegrown systems require a tremendous amount of time to not only develop but to maintain, burning your existing resources that could be utilized for other profit generating activities.


Q: What is the biggest mistake your customers make after the MIS implementation?

A: They sometimes forget that MIS is an evolution, there are always improvements -tweaks, configurations and integrations.  Reviewing your workflow every 12-18mths is important to continue to drive the ROI.


Q: If you had to rank the MIS critical functions in terms of importance what you would say?

  1. Online ordering: having a positive reassuring presence and making it easy to do business with, is tops.
  2. Scheduling: understanding how to actually get the job done is very, very important. Quick turnaround, efficient and effective production while still maximizing margin.
  3. Quoting: this is sometimes the quickest win. Having the ability to turnaround an accurate quote in a timely manner earns the business, but it’s vital to get the estimate right.  You don’t get a second chance to go back and change the price.
  4. Soft proofing: downloading and reformatting and ensuring consistency in how customers view proofs, and keeping track of multiple versions of proofs as changes are made is VERY time consuming. Having an embedded soft proofing capability in the MIS eliminates this.
  5. Collections, Average Days of Sales Outstanding: knowing who you best customers are can help you make important decisions. Getting outstanding money in the door is a job that sometimes has to happen. Understanding who and when collections need to happen is a vital business function any good MIS will have.


Q: Does Avanti Slingshot Print MIS integrate into other technologies? Which ones and why/how?

A: Avanti Slingshot’s Application Programming Interface (API) leverages industry-standard protocols like JDF and XML to enable communication with key applications, such as web-to-print, pre-press, post-press and production equipment. By communicating with third-party systems and equipment throughout the shop, Avanti Slingshot eliminates costly, time-consuming manual steps

There really isn’t a piece of software or hardware that we can’t communicate and collect data from.

Some examples include:

  • Web to Print – RSA, MarComCentral, XMPie, PageDNA Aleyant Systems and many, many more.
  • Production Automation – AGFA, Canon, Esko, Enfocus, Ricoh, Kodak, Xerox, Ultimate TechnoGraphics, Fuji, Fiery
  • Business Management – Avalara, Intuit, Microsoft, Sage, BCC Software
  • Shipping and Logistics – FedEx, Purolator, Canada Post, USPS, UPS


Q: Where do you think the biggest opportunities are for print service providers in 2021?

A: I think managing their order/job process is still right up there.  Integrating a web storefront (or W2P) is still a gap or challenge for many. Getting the order in and to production with zero touches is the biggest opportunity with so many opportunities for time savings and error reduction for those who get it right.


Q: What’s next for Avanti? Anything new on the horizon you can talk about?

A: Sure! We’ve recently built soft proofing features inside Avanti Slingshot.

Every print project involves a proofing step where the customer gets to see the project in full color, exactly as it will look when completed, and make final adjustments if something isn’t quite perfect. It’s a critical step in the print shop work chain, so why do we settle for a proofing process that interrupts workflow, wastes time and leaves room for oversights and errors?

We discussed this question with print shop owners nationwide and used their input to develop Live Proofing, a new module that embeds proofing in the Avanti Slingshot Print MIS and eliminates any breaks in communication that can lead to delays and oversights.

Essentially, we’re solving the remote soft proofing challenge with Live Proofing, check it out!


Just for fun: Get to know Kevin.

Q: What’s the latest tech gadget you’ve purchased for yourself?

A: A Roomba. I work with customers daily to understand how we can make their lives easier though automation, so I guess I have done something similar at home.  I now have a robot who can automatically vacuum my floor!

Q: The first place you’re going to after COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted?

A: It will likely be a West Coast USA trip to see some customers and film some customer success videos.  But on a personal note I am long overdue to explore more of Italy – I just love everything about that country, so that may be the spot.

Q: If you weren’t doing this (at Avanti), you’d be….?

A: I would probably be a full-time coach for a sports team. I enjoy the strategy and energy of sport. Coaching is like business leadership where guiding and mentoring plays a major role. I enjoy helping others become their very best.

Learn more about Avanti Slingshot Print MIS here.

If you have any questions or want to get connected with Kevin, reach out to him on LinkedIn.


Meet the Author

Kevin Shaw is a strategy and operations executive who leads all activities across Marketing, Product Management, and Customer Experience. He is the Deputy to the General Manager and owns Avanti’s Alliances and Partnership Strategy. Prior to Avanti Systems, Mr. Shaw was a senior member of the Global Product and Technology group at ADP, LLC of Roseland, NJ specializing in data analytics products. Mr. Shaw has more than 12 years of Product Management experience with ERP/MIS software firms ranging in size from the Fortune 500 to independent software vendors (ISV). Across various roles, he has driven product vision and strategy, delivered frictionless customer experiences, lead team transformations and determined the commercial viability of dozens of products. Mr. Shaw holds an MBA from the University of Liverpool and is a Chartered Member of the Canadian Institute of Management. He serves as an advisor to several start-up software companies and is an active mentor, coach, to up and coming product professionals.

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